A Storm's a Brewing: Hama talks "G.I. Joe: Storm Shadow"

In the world of G.I. Joe, Thomas Arashikage AKA Storm Shadow has walked paths both as an agent of Cobra and G.I. Joe. This month, the ninja will have to walk the most difficult path of all -- his own. CBR News spoke with Larry Hama, creator of Storm Shadow and writer of the new "G.I Joe: Storm Shadow" ongoing from Devil's Due Publishing.

Storm Shadow was born when Hasbro came to Hama with an action figure of a ninja in a white outfit they wanted the writer to develop. One of the more interesting and important background details of Storm Shadow first appeared in issue #21 of the Marvel Comics "G.I. Joe" run, the hexagram tattoo that Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes both wear on their wrists. However, that issue wasn't the first time Hama used the symbol in a comic book.   "Iron Fist was sort of my first regular Marvel Comics gig," Hama explained to CBR News. "I penciled two or three issues of 'Iron Fist' in 'Marvel Premier.' So I had to take over from what Gil Kane had designed. I designed the character of Lei Kung and I needed something to put on the metal plate on his chest. I thought, 'Everybody uses Yin-Yang.' The main reason for choosing that particular hexagram is not because of its inherent meaning but because it's easy to remember (laughs). It's perfectly symmetrical."

When Devil's Due editor Mike O'Sullivan called Hama to offer him the "Storm Shadow" assignment, it was an easy decision for the writer to make. "The character never lost any appeal to me," Hama said. "He's just one of those characters that I dig where he's coming from and there's lots of stuff there that you can play with."

One of the reasons Hama enjoys writing Storm Shadow so much is the conflicted nature of the character. "He's very loyal but at the same time he's got this flaw that's a combination of vanity and jealousy," Hama remarked. "The thought of someone else taking over the ninja clan was too much for him. At the same time he's got a thing about duty and vengeance. I think overall there's this ethical and cultural clash within him about good and evil and sort of his American side versus his Japanese side. It's that type of conflict that makes a character interesting."

Storm Shadow's inner conflicts are a big part of the first story arc of the series. "The reason things are occurring is because he's in a confused state," Hama said. "By the end of the first four issue arc, he decides that he has to get things together. Then the next arc is about how he tries to go about getting himself together. And obviously there are forces at work that want to prevent him from doing that."

He still has many emotional issues to resolve, but Storm Shadow knows what he's doing for a living now that he's no longer an active participant in the G.I. Joe-Cobra War. "He's sort of a freelance covert op/ spy/ ninja but more 21 st century," Hama stated. "He's not just a guy who throws throwing stars and defends himself with a sword although there will be some of that."

Tommy Arashikage may have gone into business for himself but that doesn't mean he's gone completely mercenary. "He's a freelance operator with his own set of rules," Hama explained. "The whole point of the mystery of the book is to keep these certain rules and parameters and their purposes enigmatic and have gradual revelations. So you go, 'Oh that's what that was about in issue #1.'"

Issue #1 of "Storm Shadow" kicks off a race and battle for a mysterious artifact. "I've finished the plot for the first two issues and I'm finalizing #3 and #4. It's all about somebody wanting something called Morning Light, which only Tommy knows the location of," Hama stated. "Questions like 'What is Morning Light' and 'Where is Morning Light?' will all be nicely resolved in issue #4. Unlike most MacGuffins that I write about, I actually know what and where Morning Light is right now."

Storm Shadow and his enemies' quest for Morning Light will take them all over the globe. The first story arc will feature stops in Chicago, Moscow, Tokyo, and New York. "I'm sending him around the world, mostly to places that I've actually been to," Hama said. "So I've got lots of good references for the settings; lots of pictures."

As he treks across the globe Storm Shadow will occasionally encounter people and things with seemingly magical abilities. "I always sort of liked to walk the razor's edge on that," Hama stated. "Is it magic? Or does it have to do with the power of the inner brain? Like the power of Zen monks to control their alpha waves or how Hindu mystics were able to do all sorts of physical maneuvers. I don't believe I ever said any of that was magic. Sometimes it can seem like it though.

"I think the mysticism within stuff like the martial arts is more a Zen mysticism than truly occult. It's all about calling on your inner reserves not otherworldly forces," Hama continued. "In early Japanese movies they used to translate the word ninja as meaning occultist because they didn't think an English speaking audience would know what a ninja was. So that lead to some early confusion about what ninjitsu was."

The supporting cast of "Storm Shadow" will be a colorful collection of characters. "There are a couple of new characters that are going to stick around and there are few older characters as well," Hama explained. "It may not be obvious which are which."

Many of the characters Storm Shadow will run into in his solo series are new, but that doesn't mean he won't be running into people from his old life as an agent of G.I. Joe and Cobra, or that his life won't be impacted by events occurring in the "G.I. Joe: America's Elite" book. "It's basically a stand on its own book but it reflects the events of that universe. It's not some completely separate plane of existence."

As such, Hama has no problem with the white clad ninja interacting with his former teammates through guest appearances or crossovers. "Why not?" Hama said. "I'm not opposed to it. I always wrote 'G.I. Joe' under some odd strictures to begin with. When they were doing commercials based on covers, they were like, 'You have to use the Wind Board and the Snow Cat all in the same picture.' Then I would have to write a story that didn't sort of go together well. So I see these things as sort of a challenge. It's like one of those games where you throw dice and have to make words out of something."

Now discuss this story in CBR's Indie Comics forum.

Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn's New Look Has Leaked

More in Comics